Yashar Shahabi is a technology executive at Sourcengine focused at software development for electronics components supply chain.
In our daily lives, we use common keywords to describe what we want when shopping online. Search engines use their special algorithms to provide the best results to help us find what we are seeking.
As a result, e-commerce sites competing for our business try to follow, learn and optimize the science of their algorithms as best they can to rank highly and stay on top of various search engine result pages (SERP). Of course, search engines are also happy to charge these enterprises when their SEO quests are not going so well. Plus, they regularly change their algorithms for various reasons. In the marketing world, this process is called search engine marketing (SEM). This is all fine as long as you have professional teams taking care of your company’s SEO and SEM needs. That work is complex and requires constantly staying on top of new developments, learning, updating, optimizing, allocating marketing budgets and more depending on how far they want to go.
So far, so good if your e-commerce site targets the average person who is not a professional buyer. The simple reason for that is procurement specialists do not shop online with day-to-day keywords that your average consumer would use. Regardless of the industry, professional buyers for business-to-business (B2B) companies tend to perform searches with part numbers. Part numbers are alphanumerical — though some contain special characters — representations of a product. They only become unique stock-keeping units (SKU) when they are associated with the name of the manufacturer of that product.
As you might imagine, there are many SKUs that a professional buyer or a purchasing department needs to procure in every industry to keep the wheels of production turning. For example, there are hundreds of millions of SKUs used in the electronic components industry. Every year, tens of thousands of professional buyers and purchasing departments worldwide acquire millions of those SKUs that their companies commonly use to ensure their company’s production lines keep their electronic devices in stock.
This is where things get tricky for SEO or SEM professionals who are optimizing their companies’ listings for search engines. The only way to rank for the exact product the professional buyer is looking for is by posting its specific SKU to their sites.
However, optimizing by product description or category, which ideally groups many SKUs, simply does not work. Professional buyers must find and purchase the exact SKUs in their bill of materials (BOMs). Typically, procurement specialists are not the engineers or designers of the final product. In most cases, they do not have the training to understand what they are buying. They are taught to buy the specific SKUs their companies need, so they learn about the distributors selling these unique products and utilize their skills to negotiate purchasing terms. The bottom line is professional buyers are singularly focused on part numbers and manufacturer names.
As a result, many SEO common knowledge tactics, such as long-tail keyword optimization, are not effective. That fact introduces a lot of complications in optimizing a site for professional buyers that use search engines such as Google, Bing and Baidu in their day-to-day activities. To tackle these issues, B2B e-commerce companies must look at the SEO fundamentals of their websites.
As an example, it is imperative that SEO and SEM professionals ensure that their firm’s sites are fully crawlable so every available URL can be indexed. To understand this, you need to know that Google and every other search engine regularly try to discover any new or old websites across the world wide web by deploying bots that crawl the internet. They do this better than anyone, as their core business is taking users to the website they are seeking out.
Additionally, search engine bots collect information by clicking through websites, not by entering URLs for various pages. That means if your company’s website is not fully clickable and crawlable in terms of its URLs, you risk having what is called an orphan URL. Essentially, that term refers to URLs that do not have internal links pointing to them, making them unlikely to be crawled, indexed or ranked in search results.
Therefore, for an e-commerce website, it is vital to have all offer pages fully crawlable by having them structured through product category or the taxonomy where the product with offers belongs. This fully crawlable structure can be further enhanced by creating a matrix of manufacturers where these products belong.
In the electronic component industry supply chain, having at least 5 million to 7 million unique products with available offers is necessary to give users a sizable pool of products to browse. According to the structure I described earlier, having sound and fundamentally crawlable offer pages or product detail pages (PDP) is critical to ensuring that, one way or the other, these offer pages will be discovered by search engines. However, it is essential to keep in mind that additional criteria must be met for these URLs to rank highly and show up early on search engine results.
First and foremost among these criteria is the consistency of presence through time. As products and their offers get added to the e-commerce shop or get taken out due to a lack of availability, they must be maintained within the complex structure of the site. SEO experts can influence this manually or automatically by maintaining what is called the index files of the site’s most important URLs, like its PDPs and offer pages, within the desired search engine’s search console.
Another essential criterion to consider when ensuring the discovery of a site’s crawlable URLs is its rendering speed. Essentially, rendering speed is a measurement of the time it takes a site’s URLs to appear or resolve when they are called upon by the user or by the engine’s crawlers. There are a lot of technical considerations and variables, such as server-side rendering versus browser-side rendering, that must be accounted for when an e-commerce site is being put together or developed.
It is crucial that business leaders understand the difference between B2B and B2C SEM and ensure they have a strategy that allows prospective buyers to find their products.
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